Fish Oil and Wishful Thinking

Fish Oil pillsThe waste of money on the false notion that fish oil helps prevent heart disease is staggering. Americans spend $1.2 billion dollars on the stuff despite all the evidence that it does no good. An amazing 10% of Americans use fish oil supplements in the hopes of warding off heart disease, among other things.

We’ll give it to you straight though in doctor speak: “accrual of high-level evidence” indicates “that the supplements lack efficacy across a range of health outcomes for which their use is advocated.”  In plain English the stuff just doesn’t work as hyped. Commenting on the latest study published in Internal Medicine, former American Heart Association president, Robert Eckel, said “Almost all studies of fish oil supplements show no benefit.”

Of course, the good folks at Internal Medicine are only confirming what they already knew. In a 2012 study they concluded “All of the studies included were the gold-standard kind of clinical trial – with people assigned at random to either take fish oil or a placebo. The studies ranged in length from one to nearly five years.  The authors detected no reduction in any cardiovascular events, such as heart attacks, sudden death, angina, heart failures, strokes or death, no matter what dose of fish oil used.”

What about the Eskimo? Don’t they have lower rates of heart disease from eating all that fish? The Canadian Journal of Cardiology calls that notion “wishful thinking”. Studies show that these people show no reduction in heart disease despite the consumption of large amounts of fish.

These findings didn’t stop the growth in sales of fish oil pills, however, even though the pages of the academic journals were filling with evidence that fish oil has no benefits. Why take the bait on all the fish oil hype? The take-away for those in the know is: save your money and consider trying the proven, healthy, plant-based diet to lower your risk of heart disease.